Millions of people suffering from diabetes are forced to endure multiple finger pricks daily – an unpleasant practice that may impede compliance, and whose reliability is operator-dependent. Now, Dr. Paul Barone and Dr. Michael Strano at the MIT Department of Chemical Engineering are developing a new approach to glucose monitoring. Building on work they previously published in ACS Nano, the new technology employs a nanoparticle “tattoo” as a glucose sensor, which can then be continuously monitored by a device on the surface of the body.
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The sensor is based on carbon nanotubes wrapped in a polymer that is sensitive to glucose concentrations. When this sensor encounters glucose, the nanotubes fluoresce, which can be detected by shining near-infrared light on them. Measuring the amount of fluorescence reveals the concentration of glucose.
The researchers plan to create an “ink” of these nanoparticles suspended in a saline solution that could be injected under the skin like a tattoo. The “tattoo” would last for a specified length of time, probably six months, before needing to be refreshed.
To get glucose readings, the patient would wear a monitor that shines near-infrared light on the tattoo and detects the resulting fluorescence. One advantage of this type of sensor is that, unlike some fluorescent molecules, carbon nanotubes aren’t destroyed by light exposure. “You can shine the light as long as you want, and the intensity won’t change,” says Barone. Because of this, the sensor can give continuous readings.
Press release: ‘Tattoo’ may help diabetics track their blood sugar…
Abstract in ACS Nano: Modulation of Single-Walled Carbon Nanotube Photoluminescence by Hydrogel Swelling
Graphic: Christine Daniloff